OHS Canada Magazine

Six dead in N.W.T. plane crash, one survivor taken to hospital

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January 24, 2024
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety Aviation Safety Rio Tinto

The Northwest Territories provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa on June 30, 2020. The Northwest Territories coroner’s office is expected to provide an update this morning into a deadly plane crash near the town of Fort Smith. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Six people died and a lone survivor was taken to hospital after a plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport in Fort Smith, a town of some 2,500 people along the boundary between the Northwest Territories and Alberta, officials said Wednesday.

Four passengers and two crew members from Northwestern Air Lease were killed in the Tuesday morning crash.

“There was one survivor who was taken to the Fort Smith Health Centre and then medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife,” the territories’ coroners service said in a written statement.

“The NWT Coroner Service is in the community and will be working with local resources to access the site and begin the recovery process.”

The plane, a British Aerospace Jestream 3212, was headed to the Diavik Diamond Mine, some 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, and Rio Tinto, the mine’s owner, has said some workers were on board.


“Shortly after takeoff on Runway 30, the aircraft collided with terrain. There was a post-impact fire and the aircraft was destroyed,” the Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating, wrote in an initial report.

The plane went down near the banks of the Slave River, west of Fort Smith. Rescuers parachuted to the scene.

Town council offered help Wednesday for community members who are grieving.

“We understand that you may not wish to be alone right now (and) that you may want to talk about it with others that are experiencing the same feelings of grief and trauma,” the council said in a written statement.

“There will be snacks, drinks, and friendly faces at the Community Recreation Centre as of 10 a.m. today, so feel free to drop by for a hot beverage and some conversation.”

Messages of condolences poured in from other communities.

“As a community, we mourn with you for the lives of those lost and we offer our support during this incredibly difficult time,” Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty posted on social media.

Another Northwestern Air Lease plane was badly damaged last April while landing at the Fort Smith airport.

A two-member crew on board a British Aerospace Jetstream 31 was conducting training and during the touchdown, the left main landing gear collapsed, causing the aircraft to leave the runway, the Transportation Safety Board said in an investigation last year.

There were no injuries.

— Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, with files from Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg and Colette Derworiz in Calgary.


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